When we hear the terms, gatekeeping or gatekeeper, we may think of a security guard, like the ones who protect your workplace or your children at school. As a result, you may have positive feelings about gatekeepers, but gatekeepers and gatekeeping are not always positive, like maternal gatekeeping.
The term, “maternal gatekeeping” refers to when the mother of a child becomes that security guard for the child. In other words, she believes she is the only person who can protect the child and the only person who has the best interests of the child at heart, so she controls access to the child, including the father’s access.
In addition, in co-parenting relationships, it refers to actions that the mother takes to restrict access whenever possible, whether judicially or legally allowable. And, to be clear, maternal gatekeeping affects married, divorced and unmarried couples, and it has little to do with the mother’s satisfaction with the marriage.
Why does it occur?
The specific reason each mother engages in maternal gatekeeping is unique to that mother, and it usually depends on the nature of her background, the family situation and the couple dynamic. There is not only one reason why.
Why it matters
Most importantly, for the father, it directly impact’s the father’s access and relationship with their child. As the mother gatekeeps access, they restrict the relationship that is built between the other parent and their child, sometimes destroying it entirely.
It can also matter because of how the gatekeeping occurs. The mother can fail to update the father on the child’s school progress, even if the father could help. She may not update the father on the child’s health, athletics and religious or social life. These are all important engagement and bonding opportunities.
Gatekeeping can also skew the child’s view of their father as their viewpoint of their father is largely dictated by their mother since their interactions are limited. If the mother has a negative viewpoint, the child will too. And, in the most negative cases, the mother could weaponize this to “pay back” perceived wrongs that the father committed.
There are options
For fathers, even if you do not have primary custody, maternal gatekeeping is not okay, and in extreme cases, it could constitute child abuse. Let your Tucson, Arizona, attorney know, and fight back.